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Category Archives: old fashioned

Hermena’s Cook Book

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Recently, my little family and I went to the beach and to Moody Gardens (in Galveston TX).  It was great fun!  Pictures of that to come.  But, while we were there, my oldest daughter caught a little cold bug with a fever for one day… no big deal.  Then, the baby caught it a few days later.  And 5 days later she still has a fever and is fussy and not sleeping at night … and neither am I.  I’m also not getting much of anything else done.  And we get to go to the doctor before the weekend hits…

front of book

front of book

But, on the way to the beach, we stopped at my lovely aunt Virginia’s house.  We were catching up and talking about my blog and clothespin bags and how I love old cookbooks and… and much to my surprise, she had my paternal grandmother’s cookbook!  First, I didn’t even know it existed and second, I had no idea that Virginia had it.  It’s in tough shape to be sure, many pages from front and back, including the covers, are missing.  But she said that this was the book that as a kid, they used every day.  It was a book that my grandmother used every day.  She passed last year at age 99 and was an amazing lady is so many ways.  Raising 5 kids in cloth diapers with no washing machine.  Raising any kids at all on a farm in the middle of the dust bowl.  Raising a huge garden, canning and freezing and… the memories that I have (we lived 1/2 mile from my grandparents) of picking every last cherry on the tree and ALL of the strawberries and picking potato beetles and putting them into a jar of kerosene for a penny each and….

back of book

back of book

So, now I have both grandmothers and one great grandmothers cookbooks.  And, I also have a collection of cut out recipes from one of my husbands grandmothers.  These to me are the things that are important.  They give insight into what they liked, what they ate, who they were.  Despite my grandma’s wanting to throw this book in the trash, it is a true treasure and I’m so glad that my aunt retrieved it.

And, much of what is inside is funny.  This is a beer ad in the book.  Notice the “now that this healthful brew has returned to the home” part?  That’s because prohibition ended in 1933 – 6 years previous!  In the 13 years since they had outlawed alcohol (it started in 1920 with the 18th ammendment and ended in 1933 with the 21st ammendment) many home cooks likely stoped using beer.  So, the industry needed to get people consuming it agian – either through drinking it or cooking with it.  Just a little line in an ad and all of the controvery of the early 1900’s is encapsulated.  They helpfully included a recipe for beer sauce – which I think I need to try making!  Then, below it you’ll notice this: “The sight of beer, the smell of beer, the taste of beer were as common to the senses as….(the) chaste smell of starch”.  Hillarious!  I’ve NEVER associated being chaste and starch together before.  Or knew that gingham cloth smelled frugal?  Not to mention I have no idea what sassafras tea smells like either.

I’ve looked through the rest of what I have and can’t find the other beer recipe that is mentioned in the ad.  I want to get a copy of a better condition book and take pictures of the rest of the pages….  The book is as far as I know only found in one university library in Kansas… published in 1939 from the town (Seneca KS) where my grandma was from.  And of course, the page with the most stains, so likely the greatest use – the cookie page.  🙂

Oh, and I linked up to a blog hop on all things domestic, farm, home made… you know – fun stuff!  It’s the Creative Home Acre Hop.  You can find the rest of the blogs in the hope at Mumtopia… Ciao!

I have a recipe ready to write up from this book.  As soon as my baby gives me a minute I’ll get that posted.  For now – I hope you enjoy!

Vintage Mixing Machine

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I need a mixing machine.  Mine went with the house and before, with wedding money from my parents, I had a beautiful Bosch mixing machine.  It was strong and durable and I really didn’t like it.  Why?  That annoying and silly center post.  I know that is central to making it work but it meant a lot of scraping… and it just wasn’t my thing.  (However, MANY bread making folks out there adore it.)

So, after the fire, after we moved into the new house, I had to start filling in with something.  And I started looking.  And again, like on my quest of a food processor, I realized that most modern machines meant to mix breads and cakes are just lousy.  And so, here I am, still without a mixer.

Part of my struggle comes with our new diet, at least for a couple of us in my little family.  And more of this will come on a later post but basically, baby Eleanor has had some tough GI issues since about 2 months old.  Basically, severe constipation.  And after working with our amazing pediatrician in Austin, and talking to some family – I went gluten free to see if it helped.  Eleanor is still on Miralax, though at a low dose, and that keeps any day to day issues at bay.  In the rare experiment where I cave to gluten (and the stuff is stinking everywhere – especially in resturant foods) she quickly becomes clogged up again.  As in 24 hours of my bad meal (though the seafood while at the beach was really yummy).

So, since it appears that she will be gluten free for the undetermined future – do I need a heavy duty mixing machine that developes gluten like a dream?  Does the $700 Verona Assistent justify its expense on a gf diet?  And in all of my readings I keep hearing about the wonders of machines made in the US in the 50s and 60s that were durable and did what was needed of them and are still going strong – where are those today?  No where.

What does it leave a girl to do?


Do what her grandma did of course!  Buy a vintage machine.  Please realize that my sewing machine, my Bernina 830, is a 40 year old machine and I heart it deeply.  So, it’s not a big leap to figure that I might equally come to admire the virtues of an old mixer.  The question is – which one?  Unless you’re a fair bit older than myself, you likely aren’t familiar with a Dormeyer mixing machine.  And yet, it seems that they were amazing mixers of the 30’s to 60’s.  And I’m currently considering a Dormeyer 4400 or 4300. 

There are other mixers of good breeding out there, too.  Vintage (40 year old or older) Hamilton Beach model k.  Or the much revered Kenwood.  Or the Sunbeam model 12 (not to be confused with a 12 speed, which makes ebay shopping tricky).

If you are like me and are also looking down vintage lane because of the lousy stuff currently being made (plastic gears – really?) here are a few resources that you might be interested in.

Tips on buying a vintage machine.  Be sure to read the comments for more good info.

WACEM yahoo group.  We Actually Collect Electric Mixers group.  No really, it’s a really yahoo group.  With lots of good info that you can read in their messages without joining and proving what a dork ahem collector you are.  And yes, I’m thinking about joining just so that I can ask questions.

Neslson EZY vintage mixer repair service.  You might reconsider buying vintage when you see what it will cost to get your old machine back to new working order but consider this.  If it lasted 50 years the first go around, it will likely last another 50 years… and what current machine on the market now has the chance of doing that?  And, I have no idea of the quality of repairs from this guy so use the service at your own risk.

So, I’m currently waiting to see if I am outbid on a Dormeyer on Ebay.  My max bid is $20 with shipping being another $17.  I’m rather regretting bidding on it and hope that I get out bid this morning as I don’t want to miss out on a different machine, also a Dormeyer, for $20 more but that has a buy it now option.  And I might cry if I miss out on both at the same time.  Why the Dormeyer?  Great reviews (what few there are) and metal bowls.  And I have 2 little kids – metal stands a great chance of surviving another 50 years than glass, at least in my house.

I’ll keep you posted on what I end up with.  It’s an adventure to be sure.  And if you have one to sell to me – I’ll happily buy it!

Two Romantic Vintage Salad Recipes

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Sadly, no pictures of the finished products of these vintage recipes.  I think that reading them should present enough of a visual image for most of you.  That, and I have never in my life enjoyed jello salad, especially the sort made before it was called Jello.

So, what is gelatin?  According to the wikipedia site it is :  “Gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolosis of collagen extracted from the skin, boiled crushed horn, hoof and bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, chickens, pigs and horses.  Food-grade gelatin is produced mainly from two raw materials, beef skin and pig hide.   Photographic and pharma grades of gelatin are generally made from beef bones, although some beef bone gelatin is used by the food industry. Gelatin is an animal protein unlike many other gelling agents used by the food industry.”  YUM!

Back in the days before purified gelatin was available in the stores, you got to make your own by boiling a calves foot.  Thus, the “calves foot jelly” really is just a jello salad made from the gelatin extracted from the foot of a calf.  Doesn’t that sound delicious?

Now, to be fair, sensibilities back in the day were a bit different than now.  Most people weren’t as far removed from their food as we currently are (save for the few farm kids, which I am proud to say I am a member of).  Even if you did grow up on a farm and raise the calves from babies that you were later to eat at dinner like I did, we still never boiled a foot to make desert.  And regardless, it was never the source of the gelatin that made it unpalatable for me – it was the texture.  There are some instances where it is fine but most of the time I just can’t do it.  My brother however – he loves the nasty stuff.  And my mother, as most moms of the 70’s and 80’s did – she seemed to make a lot of it.  It was an easy way to get fruit into the meal I think and was easy for pot lucks.

Now, I do have to say that my mom has a fabulous cranberry jello salad that I WILL eat.  That recipe will come on another day when I have time to make it.

For now, you get two very romantic gelatin recipes taken from the 1948 owners manual of the Westinghouse Refrigerator.  I found my copy of this little cookbook at a local antique store and knew it had to be a part of my tiny little collection.  And the romantic recipes?  Yesterday I was married 8 years to my amazing husband.  I think it was gift enough that I didn’t make either recipe for him!

And as an aside… most fruit used in jello recipes are canned or cooked first.  Fruit like pineapple, kiwi, figs and papaya all have proteases in them that chemically cut the gelatin resulting in a jello that never sets which is why it is important to used canned or cook the fruit before making the salad.  Bananas are lacking in these proteases so those are usually used fresh in salads.  Just in case your favorite salad, like that of the greatly esteemed Mr. Cosby, is boiled calves foot jelly.

Sweetheart Salad

2 c crushed pineapple                                              2 T lemon juice

1/2 c sugar                                                                  2 T cherry juice

1 1/2 T granulated gelatin                                       6 ounces cream cheese

1/4 c cold water                                                         1/2 pint whipping cream

12 cherries

Heat pineapple with sugar, add gelatin which has been softened in 1/4 cup cold water.  Stir until melted.  Add lemon and cherry juice, cool.  Mash cream cheese, add cherries which have been cut fine, mix with pineapple, adding a small amount of pineapple mixture to cheese at a time.  Chill until slightly thickened.  Whip cream and blend with pineapple mixture.  Mold and chill.  This makes 12 small servings.

Valentine Vitamin Salad

1 package strawberry gelatin                                 1/2 c shredded carrot

1 c hot water                                                              1/2 c celery, sliced fine

1/4 t salt                                                                      2 ripe bananas

3/4 c ice cubes and water                                        2 T lemon juice

1/2 c pineapple

Dissolve gelatin in hot water and add cold water to cool.  Shred carrots, slice celery, and cut bananas into cubes.  Sprinkle lemon over the bananas.  Add the salt to the hot gelatin.  When cool, and it begins to thicken, add the vegetables.   Mold in decorative molds and serve with mayonnaise on shredded lettuce, garnished with water cress.  Serves 6.

Modern Grocery Stores

Grocery stores back when Gram was my age… any idea what they were like?  Neither did I until I heard a story on NPR yesterday about the grocery store chain, A&P, and how they changed grocery stores in this county.

In doing some research for this post, I (as always with this blog) learned a few new things!

1916 - the first Piggly Wiggly Store

The first “self service” grocery store didn’t open until 1916  (the same year as Gram’s Cookbook was written) in Memphis, TN and was the Piggly Wiggly.  Before this great innovation in shopping?  You gave your shopping list to a clerk and they put it all in your bag or basket or… no wandering aisles, no impulse ice cream purchases, no shopping carts…

1909 Dry Goods Store in Vancouver, WA

But, as Gram didn’t live in Memphis, she no doubt still used an old fashioned “dry goods” store, which sold dry things – beans, fabric, coffee…. The meat, milk, veggies were either produced by the family or bought from the butcher shop, the bakery…

Despite the innovations of the Piggly Wiggly, it wasn’t until the A&P amped up their efforts did we enter a more familiar grocery store.  The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, as it was originally known,  changed things by doing a new idea – dramatically cutting prices and only stocking items that sold quickly.  Remind you of any other store?  Yup, this is the Walmart model long before Walmart!  In fact, there were similar concerns about A&P running out small shops, much the same way that Walmart is talked about today.

1936 from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

There’s so much to read about this and if you’re interested in what it was like 100 years ago…

NPR has a great article on How A&P Changed the Way We Shopped.

Another NPR article about how A&P changed modern shopping.

(Both of the above links have some really cool old pictures, too.)

And then, the book behind the NPR interviews…The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America by Marc Levinson.  It’s not out yet, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.

Isn’t it interesting to see how different things were back then?   Things certainly changed a lot during the 20th century!

Historic Foods

Since starting the Gram’s Cookbook series, I have entered an area that I’d never been interested in before – historic recipes.  I started the Gram’s thing because she was my Gram and I loved her and this newly found book was a window into her life that I’d never seen before.

However, in digging further into this, and in meeting new blog friends, I’ve discovered a few other folks and articles who are also interested in old recipes.

The New York Times has an article this week about the Puritans and their foods.  The talk about a book, The Taste of America, which was originally published in 1977  but has recently been re-published with updates.  Definitely going on my birthday wish list!

Then, there is the Williamsburg Cookbook, which looks like such fun!  It has updated recipes of foods found in colonial times… and I really want to see this one too!

Fannie’s Last Supper, of the Fannie Farmers Cookbook fame, is a PBS show (aired in 2010) and book.  On the website for the show, they have a page full of recipes from the book.  The Brain Balls are perhaps not my thing, but I am intrigued by the Prune Pudding.  In fact, I think that I’ll try this next week and give a post on how it turns out.

Masterpiece Theatre: The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton, is a movie based on the life of the author of the first modern cookbook.  Available on Netflix DVD service (sadly, not streaming on demand) I look forward to getting a chance to watching this!

The blog, The Kitchn, has a post from a few years ago about the 5 most favorite old timey kitchen tools.  I really covet an egg beater I have to say!

So, I hope that you enjoy a few of these links… I thought I’d rather share than try to remember and post all of this later.  Do you know of any other fun books or websites for vintage recipes?  I’d love to learn about them if you do!

Happy Friday…

From Scratch School Lunches

Image by Rusinow, USDA, December 1941

School lunches in recent decades have become pretty disgusting.  Processed foods that aren’t even cooked at the school but instead bought from 3rd parties and brought in and only heated at the school kitchens.

Thank heavens there is change on the wind!  Read this great article from the NY Times about how schools in Colorado are making the switch back to from scratch meals and the challenges faced by the schools (that you might not think about – I know I didn’t!)…